Nutrition Education: It’s for the Kids

toddFall 2012

By Jon Parham

UAMS dietitian Lori Maddox, right, and graduate student Susan Melhorn

UAMS dietitian Lori Maddox, right, and graduate student Susan Melhorn used interactive technology to teach nutrition at a Little Rock elementary school.

UAMS dietetics and nutrition faculty and students are using the latest interactive educational technology to fight childhood obesity in Arkansas.

Through funding from the College of Health Professions Dean’s Society, Lori Maddox, a registered dietitian and faculty member, and graduate student Susan Melhorn created and taught nutrition lessons with the use of interactive whiteboards to kindergarten through fifth-grade students this spring.

Students learned nutrition concepts such as food group identification, proper serving sizes, balanced meals and important nutrients utilizing hands-on activities. The touchscreen feature of these whiteboards enabled students to drag and drop food items to create a balanced meal and match foods to their appropriate food groups, along with other fun learning activities.

The lessons aim to mix nutrition education and entertainment to make a difference in molding healthy eating habits at a young age. “We’ve got to take every opportunity we can to reach out to school-age kids to impress upon them the importance of good nutrition,” said Reza Hakkak, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition.

Preliminary results show a significant improvement in overall nutrition knowledge for most grade levels. “When students are actively participating in learning, they are more likely to remember the information.” Maddox said.

Other student research projects have included the introduction of a nutrition education curriculum taught by graduate students at a local Boys and Girls Club afterschool program and to another local elementary and middle school where teachers were also in the audience.